Exploring Dublin: five of the best places to visit
Fancy studying abroad in Ireland? Unsure of where to go while exploring its historic yet vibrant capital – Dublin? Fret not, because we’ve got you covered. Here are five places you absolutely must visit in the capital according to Weng, our RCSI and Malaysian Ambassador…
Guinness and Ireland go hand in hand, and no trip to Dublin would be complete without paying a visit to the Guinness Storehouse – located in Guinness Brewery at St. James’s Gate. Here, we recount the history of Guinness, from its very inception in 1759 (when Arthur Guinness signed a lease for 9,000 years!), to present day world-famous household brand name. Ascending the seven-storey pint-shaped building reveals the multi-tier process from which each serving of Guinness is carefully crafted. Along with a souvenir gift shop on the ground floor, some highlights include the “Pour Your Own Guinness” experience, where – as the name suggests – visitors get a chance to pour the perfect pint of glass (there are six steps to it!); and the “Gravity Bar” at the top floor – where shutterbugs will have a field day due to the unhindered panoramic view of the city skyline. In short, this is an experience not to be missed!
The Spire of Dublin, also called the Monument of Light, is a 120-metre monument situated on O’Connell Street in Dublin, Ireland. The monument was commissioned as part of a redesign of O’Connell Street in 1999, which was undergoing decline at the time due to mass proliferation of bargain shops and unattractive derelicts. Originally meant to be unveiled at the turn of the millennium (hence the rarely used full name ‘Millennium Spire’), technical delays meant that it was only unveiled in 2003. To date, the Spire has become a cultural icon – with as many nicknames to match its height. Some of the rather amusing ones include The Spike on the Dike; The Stiletto in the Ghetto; The Nail in the Pale; The Stiffy by the Liffey; The Pin in the Bin and everybody’s favourite, The Erection at the Intersection. Fun fact: in Dec 2015, the Spire was converted into a brilliant blue lightsabre with the clever use of lighting and theatrics – to celebrate the unveiling of the Star Wars premiere, “The Force Awakens”. If you ever visit Dublin, the looming height of the Spire will guarantee you’ll always be able to find your way to O’Connell Street.
Book of Kells
Art and culture aficionados would not want to miss the Book of Kells. Situated at the heart of the Trinity College Dublin, the Book of Kells is famous for its illustrations and ornamentation that far surpass that of other Insular Gospel books, both in extravagance and complexity. The decoration combines traditional Christian iconography with the ornate swirling motifs typical of Insular art. Figures of humans, animals and mythical beasts, together with Celtic knots and interlacing patterns in vibrant colours, enliven the manuscript’s pages. Many of these minor decorative elements are imbued with Christian symbolism and so further emphasise the themes of the major illustrations. The manuscript takes its name from the Abbey of Kells, which was its home for centuries. Today, it is on permanent display at Trinity College Library, Dublin. Admission fees include a guided tour to see the Book of Kells and The Long Room (which was itself the inspiration for the library section in the movie “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”), although for those in the know, you could have some ‘friends’ studying at Trinity bring you in – free of charge! You can thank us later.
Frequently promoted as Dublin’s cultural quarter, Temple Bar district has a colourful and vibrant persona that is extremely popular among tourists and locals alike. The area has two renovated squares –the Temple Bar Square and Meetinghouse Square. The Temple Bar Book Market is held on Saturdays and Sundays in Temple Bar Square, while Meetinghouse Square – which takes its name from the nearby Quaker Meeting House – is used for outdoor film-screenings in the summer months. Since summer 2004, Meetinghouse Square is also home to the ‘Speaker’s Square’ project (an area of public speaking) and to the ‘Temple Bar Food Market’ on Saturdays. The area is the location of a number of cultural institutions, including the Irish Photography Centre (incorporating the Dublin Institute of Photography, the National Photographic Archive and the Gallery of Photography), the Ark Children’s Cultural Centre, as well as the Irish Stock Exchange. But it is only after dark that Temple Bar truly becomes the epicentre for nightlife, with various tourist-centric nightclubs, restaurants and bars. Pubs in the region include The Temple Bar Pub, The Porterhouse, Oliver St. John Gogarty, Turk’s Head, Czech Inn, Quays Bar, Foggy Dew, The Auld Dubliner and Bad Bobs – let the evening be-GIN!
What better way to cap off your trip to Dublin than by taking a leisurely stroll at Phoenix Park – one of the capital’s oldest and most famous landmarks! Founded in 1662 by the Duke of Ormond James Chester on behalf of King Charles II, today it serves as home to the President (who lives in Aras An Uachtarain) as well as the base for An Garda Siochana HQ and Dublin Zoo. Dublin Zoo was opened in 1831, making it the fourth oldest zoo in Europe, with over 400 animals from almost 100 different species. Another interesting fact is it is the largest enclosed capital park in Europe, at approximately five times the size of London’s Hyde Park! In fact, it was originally even bigger than this – stretching out over the River Liffey and into Kilmainham – but had to be downsized to make room for the Royal Hospital in 1680. Keep walking to the edge of Kilmainham and River Liffey, and you’ll catch sight of the Wellington Monument – the largest obelisk in Europe at 203 feet high. Finally, die-hard sport car fanatics are guaranteed to have a whale of a time – the first motor rally (The Phoenix Park Motor Races) was held here in 1903 and it’s still going strong today. Such distinguished racers as Eddie Jordan, Eddie Irvine and Tommy Byrne have all raced here before.
That may be the end of the list, but hopefully, it is the beginning of a wonderful adventure to the heart and soul of Ireland – Dublin. See you there, cheers!